A homeless veteran, who received a reward he never expected after he spent his last $20 to help a stranded woman buy gas, now says he wants to touch other people’s lives the way his was touched. Marine Corps vet Johnny Bobbitt reunited with the woman he helped, Kate McClure, for the first time on TV in a heartwarming interview that aired Sunday on “Good Morning America.”
McClure, 27, has raised more than $360,000 for Bobbitt after he helped her buy gas when her car broke down on the I-95 exit ramp near Philadelphia.
Bobbitt, 34, said he’s been “overwhelmed” by people’s generosity.
“I just got her gas to help her get back on her way. I didn’t think anything about it. I wasn’t expecting anything in return,” he told “Good Morning America.” “That’s how I got the money to start with from other people. I had to return the favor. I can’t constantly take and not give back.”
A homeless veteran acts as a Good Samaritan
McClure, who ironically works for the New Jersey Department of Transportation, was driving into Philadelphia’s Center City district to meet a friend about two months ago, she told “Good Morning America.” It was close to midnight and she was driving alone on I-95 when her car ran out of gas as she was on an exit ramp.
“I pulled over to the side of the road as far as I could and I was going to get out and walk to the nearest gas station because it was not that far away, and that’s when I met Johnny,” she said. “He walked up and he said, ‘Get back in the car. Lock the doors. I’ll be back.’ I was just like, ‘OK.”
McClure couldn’t believe what happened next. Bobbitt used $20 he had collected from panhandling that day to buy her gas. He even filled her car up.
“I almost couldn’t believe it,” McClure added. “I said, ‘Thank you…I swear, I’ll be back. I promise I’ll be back to give you [the] money back.'”
McClure said she and her boyfriend, Mark D’Amico, made several visits to Bobbitt at that fateful exit ramp where her car broke down, delivering gift cards, cash and toiletries.
Then one day, the couple decided to create a GoFundMe to raise money so Bobbitt wouldn’t have to spend the upcoming holidays sleeping out on the street. Their initial goal was $10,000. They had no idea that their crowdfunding efforts would eventually total more than $360,000 by Saturday.
“I wasn’t expecting it,” Bobbitt said of their generosity. “[I was] just helping someone out…I was glad to offer the help when somebody needed it.”
How a former Marine found himself living under an exit ramp
Bobbitt is originally from the Raleigh, North Carolina, area. As a panhandler in Philadelphia, the homeless veteran is comforted by a few friends who have found themselves in a similar situation.
But prior to that, he was a paramedic, his Facebook posts depict.
One post dated September 201, said Bobbitt not only provided “non-emergency transports” as a paramedic, but also “provided advanced life support” ambulance transportation.
His Facebook posts also detail a relationship gone wrong in 2014 and how hard it was for Bobbitt to recover.
“Today makes one month apart. Hands down, absolutely the worst month of my entire life,” he wrote in November 2014.
Before becoming a paramedic, Bobbitt had a stint in the Marines where he was an ammunition technician, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer.
He has now been homeless for more than a year, the newspaper said.
An unlikely friendship proves fruitful
Bobbitt and McClure have since formed a friendship. It’s been a welcome development for the veteran, who was sleeping under a highway just four days ago.
In fact, he had to wear sunglasses during his interview on “Good Morning America” Sunday due to an eye infection caused from wearing contact lenses too long while living on the street. “You don’t have comforts of home,” Bobbitt said. “Normal things become struggle.”
“It does get kind of lonely out there. People treat you differently … when you’re homeless,” he admitted. “People don’t look at you the same.”
Bobbitt said McClure and D’Amico, however, “treat me like a regular person.”
With more than 12,000 people donating to Bobbitt to help him get back on his feet, many are wondering what he plans to do with the windfall. Bobbitt said along with securing a place to live, and perhaps buying a used truck, he’s thinking long and hard about it.
“I want to change my life, but you know it just happened,” he said. “I need to time to figure it all out.”
McClure, a Florence, New Jersey, resident, has also arranged meetings with a financial planner and a lawyer to help the veteran.
“I just want to do the right thing,” Bobbitt continued, noting that he plans to donate some of the money to organizations that help those in need.
“This money was given to help me. Why not help other people in similar situations or people that are actively helping other people in different situations?” he said.
“Everybody out there is facing some kind of struggle, so if I can touch their life, the way mine was touched, [it’d be] an amazing feeling,” Bobbitt said. “I want to feel the feeling on the opposite end.”
Click to WATCH:Homeless Veteran Received $360K, Now Wants To Pay It Forward, ‘I Just Want To Do The Right Thing’